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Seattle builds roadmap for e-scooters, plans launch in 2020

Unveiling of scootershare in Seattle back in May. (KTTH, Daron Casey)

The Seattle Department of Transportation released a detailed roadmap Wednesday of its plan to finally bring a scootershare pilot program to the city by early-to-mid 2020.

Mayor Durkan announces pilot program for e-scooters in Seattle

The plan divides the process into three phases. The first phase, lasting “a couple months,” will look to establish goals, scope, and scale for the e-scooter program, and conduct and environment review to finalize a framework.

The second phase — spanning late-2019 and early-2020 — will deal primarily with permitting, eventually finalizing and posting permit applications. The final phase will take place across early-to-mid 2020, when the pilot program will finally be launched. SDOT will look to gauge observations and experiences during the initial launch period, and conduct ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

“At Mayor Durkan’s direction, we plan to draw lessons from other cities’ micro–mobility (a term for new, small, and electric transportation modes) programs and hear from community stakeholders before allowing scooter share in the City,” SDOT said in a Wednesday news release.

Durkan originally announced the pilot program back in May, citing a handful of concerns the city would like to resolve before moving forward.

She noted that scootershare should “be a complement” to bikeshare, rather than a replacement. Second, she pointed to safety concerns, marked by an increase in injuries from e-scooters that health officials in the United States have dubbed a “public health crisis.”

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Third, she noted the issues with legal liability that often walk hand-in-hand with scootershares in other cities. Bike and scootershare providers have been known to require riders to waive their rights to sue companies, leaving municipalities open to lawsuits. Durkan points to San Diego, where four separate lawsuits claim that the city is liable for scooter-related injuries.

Both Durkan and SDOT have also acknowledged the need for an equitable system that makes scootershare accessible to lower income communities.

For now, logistical aspects of the pilot program are under consideration, including where exactly they’ll be permitted to move around the city.

“We’re exploring whether scooter riding should be allowed on sidewalks, in bike lanes, or general travel lanes,” said SDOT’s Niki Seligman.

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